From ARRL de WD1CKS@VERT/WLARB to QST on Sat May 20 16:09:50 2023
by Mark H. Derks, KC1RVQ, ARRL Acquisitions Editor
The Calm Before
The first official day of 2023 Dayton Hamvention¨ began with half an hour of calm on the show floor. All the transceivers and whips, the coils of coax, and bins of SMA connecters lay abed beneath their evening coverings -- white plastic tablecloth in the ARRL exhibit space, black canvas covers for neighboring Icom, and others beyond that. Almost quiet beneath the Tesla building's steep-pitched ceiling, exhibitors shuffled in and peeled back coverings to bare their wares. Bob Inderbitzen, NQ1R, Director of Marketing and Innovation at ARRL, took to the center of the ARRL exhibits and raised his arms. "Attention ARRL team! Everybody gather 'round. Time for the team photo."
Those working in the booth put down their projects and gathered loosely before Inderbitzen. From somewhere, a two-step stool. He climbed and held up his phone. "Squeeze together."
"Everybody showered this morning," a sudden extra standing beside him joked. "Nothing to be afraid of."
Photos were taken of the big ARRL team -- a mix of staff, Board members, Section Managers, and many other member-volunteers.
Then came a shout from a passerbyer. "They opened the gates!"
Within minutes, the ARRL Expo space was full of people sizing t-shirts, checking QSL cards with DXCC volunteers and ARRL Radiosport staff, and flipping through issues of QST. ARRL CEO David Minster, NA2AA, and ARRL President Rick Roderick, K5UR, engaged in what would be a day of conversations, primarily with members, but also with anyone who wanted to catch a little of their time in the surrounding crowd.
Until almost the day's last minutes, the busyness didn't relent.
Learning and Innovation
Outside Tesla, fair-food trucks and the sprawling flea market. In one of the day's first sessions, ARRL Lab Manager George Spatta, W1GKS, overviewed procedures for QST's Product Review section, and provided a wealth of background information about the new program, the ARRL Clean Signal initiative. Key objectives of the program are developing specifications and test procedures that will influence equipment design and manufacturing, and educating amateurs regarding signal purity -- like avoiding and overcoming poor-quality signals. The initiative is designed to incentivize manufacturers to clean up transceiver emissions beyond those that the FCC regulates. Spatta also promoted the two available jobs in the ARRL Lab (www.arrl.org/careers). ARRL RFI Engineer Steve Anderson, W1EMI, followed up with information about detecting and dealing with RFI, especially from evolving sources, such as grow lights and solar panels.
Later in the afternoon, the Antenna Forum, moderated by Tim Duffy, K3LR, of DX Engineering, drew a sizeable crowd. There were a few spots available deep in the rows of chairs, but even the wall-space was full of hams eager to hear from Frank Donovan, W3LPL; Jim Breakall, WA3FET; Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF, and Anthony Luscre, K8ZT.
Donovan's talk was called, "Six Meter Long Distance Propagation During the Next Four Years of Solar Maximum," and it started with an overview of contemporary propagation literature, including the 100th Edition of the ARRL Handbook for Radio Communications, the upcoming 25th Edition of the Antenna Book (October 2023), and the soon-to-be-released new ARRL title, Here to There: Radio Wave Propagation. He then discussed Sporadic E, which he expects to remain relatively reliable as Solar Cycle 25 climbs to its peak. As for Transequatorial Propagation (TEP) on six meters, his second topic, he talked about how conditions have already improved for this elusive propagation type. To illustrate his point he detailed six-meter contacts he made with Angola and Fiji from his station in Maryland.
Because the conditions for six-meter Sporadic E and six-meter TEP openings will remain short lived and unpredictable throughout the solar cycle, he suggested a variety of automations and alert systems using WSJT-X and JTAlert programmed to announce when exact call signs are hearable. For example, the TEP to Fiji lasted only long enough for he and another nearby ham to make their contacts before fading.
Jim Breakall then discussed the benefits and shortcomings of various antenna modeling software, and detailed a new method for determining the correct length of a dipole. It turns out, the 468/frequency method dates back to the 1910s and only provides accurate lengths when using three-inch diameter legs. His investigation was informed by a paper Ward Silver, N0AX, authored on eHam.net. He then detailed a method for using two measurements to determine the proper length of a dipole and, in the spirit of innovation, urged the audience to test the method with real dipoles, something he has not yet done.
The last session observed during day was "Mastering SOTA - Tips and Tricks," which proved to be a short, lively, presentation that highlighted the close-knit nature of the Summits on the Air community and left ample time for questions. Keith Schlottman, KR7RK, provided an excellent overview of planning a SOTA activation. Brian Betz, W7JET, drove home the importance of preparing for the worst-especially for getting lost or injured and making sure you have the best possibility that you can of being rescued. Finally, Charlie Brown, NJ7V, discussed keeping SOTA fun, even after you've achieved some of your goals, like the Mountain Goat award. Tactics include setting personal goals, joint activations, pursuing unique or new summits, improving your gear, and experimenting with new modes and techniques.
Back in the ARRL exhibit area, a banner emblazoned with "ARRL Collegiate Amateur Radio Program" hangs above a booth adorned with university pennants and swarming with young 18 to 20-somethings. Student-hams from colleges and universities around the country have volunteered to help ARRL promote the program and the participation of their radio clubs and schools. These young hams greet attendees with stories of how amateur radio is furthering their interest in wireless communications and other areas of STEM education. Their experiences are also leading to advanced careers in radio technology and related fields. The bright spotlight on young hams contributes a welcome message to all who pass by: the next generation of radio amateurs is already here, and they're already active. The ARRL YouTube channel includes a short video with some of the student participants.
Overall, the first day of Hamvention provided numerous educational opportunities, great camaraderie with fellow hams, and just enough sun to set the buildings baking by the end of the day. An excellent start!